The instructor wrote a list on the whiteboard. “These are things to avoid saying when you are trying to help someone who is in a bad situation,” he explained.
Item # 4 was: Don’t say “It could’ve been worse.”
“I don’t understand,” a student said. “I would think that if I pointed out some graver possibilities, the person I was trying to help would be thankful. In fact, I often tell myself the exact same thing when I’m confronted with a dilemma.”
“There is a big difference between telling yourself and speaking to another,” the instructor replied. “Time’s up today. I’ll explain in our next session.”
When dealing with others, minimizing their concerns could work, but very often may backfire and aggravate the situation. Instead of relief, they might feel resentment at your inability to understand how upset they feel.
If you yourself, on the other hand, are faced with a difficulty, it’s a good idea to think about how your circumstances “could’ve been worse.” If you lost your wallet, you might consider that at least you didn’t have too much money in it. If you don’t have a lot of money, you can be grateful that you are not in debt. Every situation could be worse than it is.
One might think this is a peculiar way of viewing things, but realizing that things could be worse is the first step in achieving peace of mind and happiness. One can never know the eventual outcome of life’s challenges, but if one realizes things “could’ve been worse,” one will avoid an emotional downward spiral and start the climb back up towards a happy conclusion.
One More Second: Another Thought for the Day
This World is the gym. This is where we work out, where we grow and become bigger and better people. The World to Come is the spa. That is where we enjoy the results of our work. Each world has its place, each world has its purpose. We were put in this world for a few short years to accomplish our mission. Then we leave it and enjoy our accomplishments in The World to Come… (Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier, Stop Surviving, Start Living, p. 105)
Rabbi Raymond Beyda serves in the Sephardic Community in Brooklyn, N.Y. He lectures to audiences all over the world. He has distributed over 500,000 recorded lessons free of charge. He is author of the book 1 Minute With Yourself: A Minute a Day to Self-Improvement, Sephardic Press, 2008.